At our school, students take dual-credit college courses when they demonstrate the academic skills and habits of mind needed to be successful. The students in my class are not ready yet because they struggle with coming to school an average of 2 days/week), have failed multiple classes in the past/are credit deficient, and some have been involved with the juvenile justice system in the past.
As a result, students in this class are students who are not yet reading and writing at the level needed for college-level English classes and/or who have not yet demonstrated personal accountability, grit, or work habits needed to be successful in college.
With past classes, not going to college classes has felt like a punishment and led to pervasive disengagement by those already below grade level and at risk. I asked students for input on how I could increase their engagement & they asked for a voice in how they will develop the necessary skills, including independent research, critical thinking, teamwork, college-level reading, & argumentative writing.
Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, the very first true crime novel, is a master class in how to tell a crime story. Not only does it give every detail of the murders, but also provides readers with a real glimpse into the minds and motivations of the two killers. It traces the events from the night before the murders right up to the execution of Hickock and Smith, which Capote himself attended in order to have an “ending” for his book.
In an age where the world's most gruesome news can be broadcast almost instantaneously through social media, it is beneficial for students to go back and see just how a new genre of literature was in fact created.
The book fosters serious discussions, and allows for students to branch off into different research projects.
This project requests a class set of In Cold Blood as well as the audiobook version of the book to help my more struggling readers, including those who are English Language Learners, access the text.
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